You might have heard that consuming high amounts of red and processed meats can lead to bowel cancer, or that many carbohydrate-rich fruits and wholegrains should be avoided for weightloss. 

However, NAPHL Health Hub Accredited Practising Dietitian Julietta Close says there is much more we can do to look after our gut health and reduce our risk of bowel cancer.

"When people think about bowel cancer, often they straight away think about the links to consuming too much red and processed meats," Julietta says.

"But there is much more that we can do to look after our gut health than reduce the amount of meat we eat. Most importantly, you can start by ensuring you're eating a healthy diet full of fibre."

Fibre is found in plant foods including vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts/seeds and wholegrains. While fibre is often overlooked when it comes to diet culture, Julietta says it can actually aid in weight management. 

"Current ‘trending diets’ often exclude plant-based high fibre foods, including fruits and wholegrains, in fear of carbohydrates. As fibre is not fully digested and absorbed in the body and used for energy, it essentially travels through your bowel and ends up in the toilet. Fibre makes you feel full and satisfied, and this can help with weight management.

But it doesn’t all go to waste. Julietta says fibre is the fertiliser for your gut bacteria.  It is these trillions of microbes and bacteria that play a significant (behind the scenes) role in our health. 

“Often people who want to improve their diet and prevent risk of disease think about what foods they can exclude.  I ask my clients to think about which foods they can include into their diet too. The more variety of plant foods you eat, the better for your gut health."  

Julietta encourages five ways to improve gut health and reduce our risk of bowel cancer:

Increase your intake and variety of fibre-rich foods. These include vegetables, fruit, nuts/seeds, beans and lentils, and wholegrains such as oats, quinoa and barley.
Limit your intake of red and processed meats. 
Watch your alcohol intake. 

Participate in physical activity that you enjoy.

Work on reducing your stress levels. 

If you want expert advice on your gut health, an Accredited Practising Dietitian can help. Our NAPHL Health Hub has dietitians to help you improve your diet and achieve your health goals.